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Irma Bajar: Community organizing as a political act

Irma Salvatierra Bajar, Vice Chair of International Relations at GABRIELA USA, says: “Being LGBTQ is another layer of oppression. I want to be able to create a society that does not require people to have to fight for respect.”

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This is part of the author’s LGBTQIA encounters in New York City (and beyond), where he is a State Department Fellow/Community Solutions Leader of the 2014 Community Solutions Program (CSP), a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State, and implemented by IREX.

Sometime in 2006, Irma Salvatierra Bajar saw a film that tackled the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. “It opened my eyes with the injustices that are happening in the Philippines,” she recalled. This realization dawned on her that in the Philippines, “corruption is not only because of a corrupt system, but in the end, it’s because of… American imperialism. As a Filipino-American, I knew I had to do something about it.”

Irma joined Pinay sa Seattle (which eventually became GABRIELA Seattle), and she was introduced to the National Democratic Movement.

“From then on,” she said, “there was no coming back.”

“There’s a lot of hurt, and a lot of hurt people. We need to work together to really talk about the different forms of support in the community. We need not to hurt, but to support each other,” Irma Bajar says.

“There’s a lot of hurt, and a lot of hurt people. We need to work together to really talk about the different forms of support in the community. We need not to hurt, but to support each other,” Irma Bajar says.

When Irma moved to New York in 2008, she continued doing her work by getting involved with Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (which eventually became GABRIELA New York). She started as the organizing director, becoming its chairperson a year later.

Irma is proud to say that under her leadership, “we became more visible in accepting LGBTQ members.” This as the base of the group doubled.

In 2009, GABRIELA USA became an official partner of GABRIELA Philippines. There are now nine international chapters (including US). Irma serves as the vice chair of international relations at GABRIELA USA. Irma, by the way, also serves as the program coordinator for membership of the Audre Lorde Project (ALP), which focuses on people of color (POC).

The fire that feeds Irma’s activism is all because of “my personal experience.” “With the church telling me (I am sinning). With my grandmother saying I was choosing the way of the devil. Being spat at. Being held-up at gunpoint…” For Irma, a lot of this is because of gender profiling.

And so “for me, it’s all about creating a community,” she said. Being an LGBTQ community organizer is therefore a political act. “Being LGBTQ is another layer of oppression. I want to be able to create a society that does not require people to have to fight for respect.”

Irma added: “It is liberating if you can hold hands, can get married, can feel safe in your own community. And it’s tiring (when) everyday you have to put an armor (to defend your existence).”

Irma believes that “the LGBTQ community needs to include trans issues in the discussions,” she said, stressing that “these are often forgotten.” For Irma, transgender people and gender non-conforming people “should be at the forefront of the struggle.”

All the same, Irma is cognizant of – and she even admires – the LGBTQ community’s resilience. “We thrive in spite of the difficulties that we face every day,” she said.

It is in community organizing that Irma finds a sense of purpose, seeing the value of mobilization of the people at the grassroots. This is why, she said, she admires organizations like ALP and FIERCE (in New York) for “really leading programs and campaigns for the safety and liberation of people (including LGBTQ people).”

“There’s a lot of hurt, and a lot of hurt people. We need to work together to really talk about the different forms of support in the community. We need not to hurt, but to support each other,” Irma ended.

Irma Bajar

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

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VP Robredo extolls LGBTQIA community’s spirit; recognizes a lot of work still needs to be done

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

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Screencap from the Facebook-uploaded message of VP Leni Robredo to the LGBTQIA community

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that even as the LGBTQIA community marks June as Pride month, a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

In a messages posted on her Facebook page, Robredo noted the uncertain times. “many of the things we once cherished and held on to are now being questioned and challenged,” she said in mixed Filipino and English. “Sa kabila nito, marami pa ring bagay ang di nagbabago at nagpapatuloy: tulad ng ating laban para sa patas na karapatan, dignidad at kalayaan.

Robredo noted that “for many decades, the LGBTQIA+ community has been tirelessly fighting for equal rights and representation at the frontlines. It has provided a shelter to the oppressed, a voice to the marginalized, and a family to those who have been abandoned by their own communities. Ito ang dakilang ambag ng LGBTQIA+ community sa ating (b)ayan.

She added: “Sa bawat Pride March na inyong inoorganisa, isang teenager ang mas nagiging proud na yakapin kung sino siya. Sa bawat awareness campaign na inyong sinisimulan, isang komunidad ang mas nagiging bukas ang isipan. At sa bawat pagpiglas ninyo sa tangkang pag-agaw ng ating mga kalayaan, isang bayan ang mas natututong lumaban.

There are – nonetheless – members of the LGBTQIA community “who hold positions of power in our society”, such as lawyers, executives, doctors, educators, artists, policymakers and public servants. The VP hopes that they will “use your influence to change mindsets, promote acceptance, and push for reforms on the ground. Now more than ever, we need to set an example to the younger generation. Ipakita natin sa kanila, na wala silang dapat ipangamba at na malaya silang maging kung ano at sino sila,” Robredo said.

The VP similarly recognized that teaching people to open their minds may be challenging, but “huwag sana kayong panghinaan ng loob.”

She suggested doing small steps to push for Pride, including forming support groups; reaching out to the needy; and introducing concepts re SOGIESC to relatives who may not be well-versed on the same.

Darating din ang araw na babalikan natin ang lahat ng ito at sasabihing, everything was worth the effort. Everything was worth the sacrifice. Everything worth the fight. Push lang ng push, mga besh,” Robredo added.

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Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voices support for LGBTQIA community

Pia Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

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Screencap from the Instagram account of Pia Wurtzbach

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voiced her support for the LGBTQIA community.

Via an Instagram post, Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

She added: “We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity.”

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Learning is always a two-way process.. we listen as we understand each other’s points of view. This #PrideMonth, we stand for the rights and advocacies of the LGBTQIA+ community. 🏳️‍🌈 Being an ally is someone who gives a sense of a safe and affirming space for our loving community… Let’s provide higher platforms for community members to openly discuss issues and concerns that affect us. 🙏 Here we can discuss our differences and remind ourselves that we are together on this journey, and achieve our shared goals for equality. ❤ . I know we may differ in opinions today.. but our constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better. This will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen. . Let me just make a stand that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA+ community have the right to take up space in our society…that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women. We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences.. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity. 😊🙏❤ Happy Pride! 🥰🏳️‍🌈

A post shared by Pia Wurtzbach (@piawurtzbach) on

Wurtzbach’s statement of support came after she co-hosted an online discussion involving Kevin Balot, who was crowned Miss International Queen in 2012. Balot reiterated her segregationist perspective, saying that when transgender women ask to join beauty pageants traditionally only for those assigned female at birth, “hindi na siya equality eh, parang asking too much na (this is no longer about equality; it’s already asking too much).”

In her Instagram post, Wurtzbach said that even if people had different opinions, it’s still important to provide platforms for community members to openly discuss “issues and concerns that affect us.”

For Wurtzbach, “this will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen… [O]ur constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better.”

This isn’t the first time Wurtzbach expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community.

In 2017, for instance, she called out the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) following a drug bust involving 11 men in Bonifacio Global City. “Because of what PDEA and the news outlet have done, some people are now associating drugs and immorality with being gay. It’s ridiculous,” she said then.

In 2018, she urged decision makers to address the causes that put young people at risk of HIV.

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‘Riverdale’ actress Lili Reinhart comes out as bisexual

Lili Reinhart – from “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

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Screencap from Instagram

Lili Reinhart – who plays Betty Cooper in “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

Reinhart’s revelation was linked with her post that she would be attending an “LGBTQ+ for Black Lives Matter” protest in West Hollywood in the US. Underneath a poster for the march, she wrote: “Although I’ve never announced it publicly before, I am a proud bisexual woman. And I will be joining this protest today. Come join.”

Reinhart dated co-star and onscreen partner Cole Sprouse, who played Jughead in “Riverdale.” The two had recently split.

Visibility, obviously, matters.

Earlier in June 2020, a study noted that those who have seen LGBTQIA representation are more accepting of gay and lesbian people than those who haven’t (48% to 35%). They are also more accepting of bisexual people (45% to 31%), and of non-binary people (41% to 30%).

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Emma Watson speaks out for trans rights after J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned.”

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Screen capture from the Instagram account of emmawatson

Emma Watson – who played Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series – is the latest actor to speak out in support of transgender rights after author J.K. Rowling made controversial comments on Twitter that were deemed transphobic.

On June 6, Rowling posted a tweet equating womanhood with being able to menstruate.

When called out, she seemed to own up to the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or women who claim to be feminist but do not believe transgender women are female). She also backed her perspective via a lengthy post that cited a study criticized for its transphobic bias.

Claiming to have read “all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive,” Rowling wrote. “Women (are told they) must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves… But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume.”

Watson appeared in all eight of the big-screen adaptations of the books by Rowling. By expressing her support for transgender rights, she joins former costar Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter), and “Fantastic Beasts” star Eddie Redmayne who also voiced their disagreement to Rowling’s warped thinking and defense.

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are,” Watson tweeted.

In a subsequent tweet, she added that she wants “my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”

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Eddie Redmayne joins Daniel Radcliffe in opposing J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans comments

Eddie Redmayne joined “Harry Potter” lead actor Daniel Radcliffe in criticizing J.K. Rowling comments about transgender people. “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process.”

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Screencap from "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"

Eddie Redmayne joined “Harry Potter” lead actor Daniel Radcliffe in criticizing J.K. Rowling comments about transgender people.

In a statement, Redmayne said: “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process.”

Rowling wrote the “Harry Potter” series that starred Radcliffe, and the “Fantastic Beasts” series that starred Redmayne. In a series of tweets starting June 6, where she actually owned the TERF tag (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), Rowling used the “I know and love trans people, but” argument by tweeting to her 14.5 million Twitter followers that transgender people are “erasing the concept of sex”.

Redmayne – who similarly starred in “The Danish Girl”, the 2015 biopic of Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery – said: “As someone who has worked with both JK Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to make it absolutely clear where I stand. I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and nonbinary identities are valid.”

Redmayne continued that “I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities, which all too often results in violence and abuse. They simply want to live their lives peacefully, and it’s time to let them do so.”

Radcliffe said as much earlier, when he wrote for The Trevor Project that “transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations, who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

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Transgender women are women – Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe

“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations.”

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Screencap from "What If" (2013)

Following the backlash the “Harry Potter” author, J.K. Rowling, got for statements deemed transphobic, Daniel Radcliffe wrote on The Trevor Project that “transgender women are women.”

On June 6, Rowling used the “I know and love trans people, but” argument by tweeting to her 14.5 million Twitter followers that transgender people are “erasing the concept of sex”.

In response, Radcliffe said: “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo (i.e. J.K. Rowling) or I.”

He added that with 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reporting being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity, “it’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.”

Radcliffe stressed that while certain press outlets may paint his statement as proof of infighting between J.K. Rowling and himself, “that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now.”

In closing, Radcliffe said: “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you.”

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